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Mental health and wellbeing at work (just not necessarily in an office)

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For World Mental Health Day last year, Socitm shared thoughts about how our colleagues and managers are so well placed to notice when people are not well.

Mental health spotters

Given how much time we spend at work, our colleagues are in a good place to spot when we’re starting to struggle or slide. They can see changes in patterns of behaviour. But now that our colleagues and managers have only seen us virtually for 6 months, how are we all coping?

If you’ve experienced mental health illness before, it’s likely that you can recognise things, you’re doing or feeling or thinking, that indicate something might be happening. And not in a good way. And if you’re able to, you can pull yourself back from the edge. But not always. If only it were that simple.

Guide to spotting

We probably know more about our team than we realise; who likes working with headphones on; who meets deadlines, but only just; someone might learn best by watching a video, but someone else needs to just do it or write lots of notes. Colleagues who are great at standing up in front of people, and others not so much.

Changes in working patterns and/or behaviour are common factors: procrastinating more; taking too much time, or too little.

The issue is that it depends on knowing the people you work with. They don’t have to be your BFF. Just be interested in the people on your monitor.

The NHS has a useful lists of common symptoms for depression and anxiety.

Living at work

It was all too easy when we had offices to travel to and from, for work and home to merge. Now that’s a single physical space the blending is complete.

Taking care of your mental wellbeing is essential. This can be difficult to admit and difficult to make time for. But being aware of it and monitoring it can help prevent something more serious happening.

What can you do? What can your boss do?

Learning about different kinds of mental health illnesses and supporting wellbeing helps all of us. An open mind is the best way of learning.

If a pandemic can have an upside, it could be our openness to acknowledging mental health struggles, a willingness to both accept and talk about them (our own and other people’s). Things that used to happen in an office can still happen over Teams. Have tea and a biscuit together. Chat about what you’re both binge watching. Or what you wish you had time to binge watch.

Our colleagues over at Socitm Advisory have written about the skill of active listening. It’s something that’s taught to Samaritans volunteers and takes some practice. It can tricky to manage and at its heart is concentration and being at ease with silence.

Being honest with yourself is a massive and difficult first step. Periods of stress or anxiety or fear are regular features of life. Finding them overwhelming and out of control doesn’t have to be.

Mind has adapted its wellness action plan (WAP) for working from home. A WAP can be difficult to complete -it’s very easy to approach it with scepticism. But give it a go. Take your time. A WAP can be done with or without your boss. If you’re comfortable, it could help to buddy up with a colleague instead of a manager.

What might be useful?

How about…

  • Mixing camera-on/off meetings
  • Include your working hours in your email signature and/or a note that, if you send things outside these hours you don’t expect a reply – it’s just your work-life balance
  • Regular informal catch-ups with your line manager. Don’t write an agenda
  • Use and avoid technology ???? Switch notifications off at certain times. Find a meditation app that’s helpful for you
  • Be aware of useful resources for signposting
  • Train to be a mental health first aider
  • Think small

Be kind.

What would you suggest?

We all need to find what works for us, but we can be inspired by what others find helpful. Don’t be afraid to look after yourself and your team.

More resources